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Reviews Categories | QRP Radios (5 watts or less) | PSK-20 Small Wonder Labs Help

Reviews Summary for PSK-20 Small Wonder Labs
PSK-20 Small Wonder Labs Reviews: 42 Average rating: 5.0/5 MSRP: $95
Description: Dedicated PSK-31 QRP XCVR kit for 20m
Product is in production.
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KC9CS Rating: 5/5 May 15, 2008 14:02 Send this review to a friend
Small Wonder--HUGE fun!  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
Dave Benson's Small Wonder Labs makes some of the best in fun for ham radio. I've got 2 of his SW+ 2 watt CW transceivers, 2 Rock-Mites and now my latest is the 30M version of the PSK series, the PSK-30. A bit more ambitious than the other radios this one took probably about 8 hours to build, but I'm pretty methodical, I figure it is easier to double check my work as I go, than try to spend a lot of time trouble shooting afterwards. So, I'd suggest a thorough manual read, sort the parts carefully, study the schematic and then warm up that soldering iron. At the end of it you'll have a kit that will provide LOTS of entertainment, plus the joy of having built it yourself. I bought the enclosure kit to give it that professional look when done. 8 hours to build (again, I take my time) about 30 minutes to align the rig and it was on the air with a bit over 2 watts out, which is really plenty on PSK. No problems at all. Not recommendable as a first time kit, you might want to start with the little RockMites, then graduate to the SW+ series and if PSK is an interest step up to them. Expect a few weeks or more if you order because Dave's built quite a reputation and the kits are always back-ordered, but that speaks volumes about how well they are received and considered. Look at the ratings! Any questions and Dave is prompt about getting back via email to help. Highly recommended.
WA4LLF Rating: 5/5 Apr 7, 2008 14:44 Send this review to a friend
A great little kit  Time owned: more than 12 months
I got my PSK-20 more than a year ago and built it over the course of a few evenings. The instructions were excellent, the parts were top quality, and I had no problems during construction. Output power was slightly over 3 W into a dummy load.

Until recently, however, I did not have a proper antenna to use with my PSK-20, so it sat on a shelf for many months. That changed when I put up a PAR EF-20 antenna and tried out the PSK-20 this past weekend. I had no problem copying stations ranging from Cuba to the U.S. west coast, or down to South America. I easily worked Cuba, WA, AZ, and OR in between experiments with various PSK31 programs.

I love this little rig and I am already planning to use VNC to remotely operate my station over the Internet while I'm away from home.
W7WJ Rating: 5/5 Apr 5, 2008 18:42 Send this review to a friend
Super PSK Transceiver  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I wanted this kit so I could take it portable on my motorcycle with my XO laptop I recently bought. Both together only draw about 1 amp on transmit and a lot less on receive.

As far as the PSK-20 kit goes, it is a as good as all the prior reviewers say. It is an easy build. I would not recommend it as a first kit, but other than that, it should be no problem. There are some tight spots for components, so a good solder iron with a needle tip will really help. There are two surface mount inductors (a 3rd SMD is pre-installed), but they are pretty large for a SMD and are no big deal.

I made a couple of building hiccups, mainly due to trying to build the kit late at night when I was tired. A couple of emails to Dave were quickly responded by him with right-on answers. Super support.

For the uninitiated (QRO folks) PSK31 is a great QRP mode. I have no problems making contacts with this rig using an MFJ 3' Mag Loop at 10'.
K1QN Rating: 5/5 Jan 10, 2008 04:44 Send this review to a friend
More fun than big rig  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I put mine together a few months ago. By coincidence, my big rig (ICOM 740) was away at the shop. The ICOM is back, but when I go to 20 meters, I still use the PSK-20. It's QRP, but you get enough replies that you're not wasting your time.

I'll probably get one for 40M and/or 10M. With a cut-down CB whip, it would make a great little 10M mobile rig!
WA6L Rating: 5/5 Dec 14, 2007 09:36 Send this review to a friend
Another great kit from Dave Benson  Time owned: 6 to 12 months

This is my second kit from Small Wonder Labs. Like the first, this one was elegantly designed, easy to build, and superbly documented. I completed the kit in one day, and had no problems and no questions about the procedure or the parts. This kit is well within the abilities of a first-time builder who has some soldering skills.

I also opted to go with the PSK-20 enclosure that is offered by Small Wonder Labs. I think that was a good decision, as the kit goes into the enclosure in 5 minutes flat and looks great.

After the build. I applied power to the unit and went through the well-documented alignment procedure. It all worked as designed, except for the output power. I was barely getting 1 watt out. After considerable troubleshooting, I decided it was a bad final PA. I emailed Dave Benson with my measurements and he agreed. He sent out a new PA, and I am now getting 3 watts out.

Like the other Small Wonder Lab designs, the PSK-20 is a simple, well-designed rig. There are no "bells and whistles" -- not even a power LED. But also like Dave's other designs, it works very well and is just begging for user modifications. There is plenty of room on the PC board and in the enclosure if you want to add that LED or make other changes.

On-air performance is spectacular for a rig with this price and parts count. The receiver is hot, and compares favorably (using the waterfall for comparison) with my desk rig. The power output is a limiting factor, but with 3 watts and good conditions, you can do very well on PSK. My very first contact was with South America.

Some other reviewers have made comments concerning audio levels on the PSK-20. I agree. You have to be very careful about over-driving your PSK signal. There is no ALC or IMD indicator on the PSK-20, so I recommend contacting a friend on PSK who can watch your signal as you make sound-card adjustments. Once you find the right setting, leave it there!

I do have to make one final comment about Small Wonder Labs. This is a one-person company, and that one person (Dave) does everything. He also has a personal life and (as of this writing) is building a house. So you aren't going to get a one-week turn around on orders or on email. Some orders will take months to ship.

I am fine with this. I am just grateful that the Ham community has someone like Dave who can design these great little kits and offer them at such reasonable prices. However, you need to know ahead of time that you are not dealing with a large commercial enterprise. Home-brewers and kit-builders are generally patient people, so this shouldn't be an issue.


John, WA6L
W7RJR Rating: 5/5 Apr 1, 2007 00:12 Send this review to a friend
Outstanding!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Took about 2 months for the kit to arrive after ordering. Well worth the wait. The kit arrived by USPS express mail. An initial inventory revealed a set of 6 monolithic capacitors missing but an email to Dave resulted in replacement parts within 5 days! Suggest you carefully inventory all parts before beginning the build. A magnifying glass, small tipped 25 watt soldering iron and multimeter are essential tools. The instructions were very good except for a few minor problems. Nomenclature for Q10 which is a 2SC2166 is erroneously referred to as a 2SC1970 on page 18.
Positioning of Q10 is a little confusing as it relates to the 'front' of the board. During frequency alignment I had to use my 'big rig' with another PSK signal, otherwise the CW alignment procedure was off!
The hardest part of building the kit is winding the toroids. The receiver is very good and I get about 2 watts output. Be very careful about adjusting the audio output from your computer soundcard. Too much output will overdrive it and make your PSK neighbors very unhappy.
Made contacts from coast to coast and with Russia on the very first day of use. I am absolutely amazed at it's performance. Can't wait to take it camping.

KE7BXP Rating: 5/5 Nov 28, 2006 23:08 Send this review to a friend
Surprisingly good PSK rig  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
I built this as my second QRP kit, as I spend most of my operating time using the PSK mode. I wanted a rig I could easily take on business and vacation. Kit was complete and had good directions. Have operated the rig for almost a year, and have been amazed what can be accomplished with this radio, a laptop, and a simple antenna. Have made QSOs with Sweden, Japan, Russia, Argentina, and many US states. Have received many 599 signal reports, and most OPs are very surprised that the rig is QRP. Even got second place in a recent contest. I would higly recommend this to anyone interested in PSK operation.
K2QPN Rating: 5/5 Aug 13, 2005 16:59 Send this review to a friend
Wonderful rig.  Time owned: more than 12 months
I built the PSK-20 about a year and a half ago. The kit was easy to build. The instructions were clear. I would recommend a magnifing glass if your eyes are as old as mine.

Alignment was easy. I copied a station in France before the receiver was peaked. The rig puts out a solid 3 watts.

I bought this rig to use in hotel rooms while traveling. I have found that dangling 1/2 a dipole out the window is no good. I can copy folks but they don't hear me. If I stretch out the antenna, life is good and I can make contacts.
AD5JN Rating: 5/5 Aug 20, 2004 17:03 Send this review to a friend
Great Radio  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Great radio. I picked mine up on the cheap at Hamcom this summer. What a find! Who ever built it did a great job. Looks good too. I am having a ball with this little wonder.

G0HCI Rating: 5/5 Jun 25, 2004 17:51 Send this review to a friend
A Touch of Class!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Kit parts all accounted for. Only error was receiving the old enclosure panel facia.
Dave responds very quickly to emails and is sending the correct panel ASAP. :-)

THIS model does away with the serial i/o - Set the audio levels in/out and away you go.

I had such fun building this, that I intend to continue building.

The PAR EF20 antenna (see reviews) is a perfect match for this beast and I'll be working portable with my ancient laptop.

First CQ received an excellent report on my clean STRONG signal (wish people lose their railroad tracks) and so, with such an excellent kit, I recommend it to anyone who has yet to pluck up the courage to undertake a first build.

Don't forget - if you are in Europe, Amateur gear is exempt from cusom/import duty - Dave labels the package correctly so no problem there...

As Dave says "Have fun!"
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